The Book of Time
I have a hard time finding good time travel books. I’ve read my fair share, but I can’t name a single time travel book that I love. I think in part I am overly critical when it comes to time travel books since it’s what I write. That said, I did enjoy this book overall despite its problems. The set up was long winded but presented a strong and interesting concept. And once the author created his time travel rules he followed them—little pet peeve of mine, so liked that.
After the death of his mother in a car accident, Sam and his father move into an old house where his father sets up a bookstore specializing in antique books. Sam’s father disappears and the adventure begins as Sam decides, unintentionally at first, to go back in time to search for him.
There are some good plot elements in this book, but they get lost at times in a very slow start and a few tediously slow passages towards the end. Within all the slow parts is a very clever plot, and a very different spin on time travel. The “way” Sam travels from past to present is clever and actually ties into the whole story. The author sets up specific guidelines and sticks to them, which I appreciated. My favorite plot element was the fact that Sam 1) moved back and forth between the past and present and 2) he never went back to the same place twice. I’d have liked to have seen the author take fuller advantage of this (though I think I will get my wish on this count in the second book).
Sam was an okay character. He deals with self-doubt issues in the present, but is a much stronger character when he is in the past. I’d have liked to see Lily, Sam’s cousin, introduced much sooner. She was by far the more interesting character to me, and it was when she became a part of the story that the plot started to pick up its pace. There are a variety of antagonists in the book, both historical and contemporary. I hope that the sequel explores them more, especially Sam’s Aunt’s boyfriend.
In a nut shell, this book felt more like a set up for a sequel than a standalone novel. A lot of editing and quicker start would have really made this book stand out.
It’s also important to note that this novel is a translation. The author is French and this is his first children’s book. I’d love to get my hand on the French version and read it. Having attended a French high school and read my fair share of French books, there are many instances in this book where I feel like the story might have been changed to fit an English translation, which might account for some of my issues with the novel.
I’m a big book cover person. I’ll pick up a bad book and read it just because of an amazing cover. I have to say this is one of the better covers I’ve seen this year. I’ve felt like this past year there’s been a lack of good cover art in children’s fiction, so it’s always nice to see an exciting cover.
If you read this book you’re going to have to be patient, really patient. It takes a good half of the book before the story really begins. That said, I still think it’s worth the read—especially if you want to study the mechanics of time travel. If you make it to the end…it’s a cliffhanger. You’ve been forewarned. You’ll want to request Gates of Time, the sequel, which I predict will be a much better read.
For those interested here’s an INTERVIEW done with the author.